Making John's Vision a Lived Experience
At the start of 2010, with Lent just around the corner, I received my copy of Wisdom for Everyday Life from the Book of Revelation by Father Richard Veras. Whenever possible I try to arrange my reading around the seasons of the Church’s liturgical year, and so initially I planned to begin reading Father Veras’ book on Ash Wednesday, hoping to conclude well before Easter. An overview of the Book of Revelation seemed an appropriate way to reflect on Scripture throughout Lent.
Anyone remotely familiar with John’s Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, knows that the work is filled with bizarre creatures, strange prophesies of future events, battles that pit demonic forces against all that is good, and of course signs foretelling the end of the world. With that in mind, it is understandable that we might approach the Book of Revelation with a sense of dread, an acute awareness of our own failings and sinfulness, and a spirit of repentance - fitting stuff for the Lenten season. We might even ponder our own fate should the final epic battle take place in our own lifetime.
But as any good Catholic commentator on Scripture knows, and as the author of this book points out, the “battle” does indeed take place in our own lifetime, and for our very souls. As soldiers in this ongoing war, Revelation speaks directly to each of us, here and now. Of course, there are prophesies of future events (the precise meaning of which is unclear…no matter what any televangelist claims), but we also know that on some level the great “battle” against Satan, followed by God’s triumph over sin and evil, is happening within each of us now as we try to live out our call to Christian holiness. In this way the Book of Revelation has a personal relevance for each of us and is not simply a symbolic foreshadowing of geopolitical events that will precipitate the end of world. We must live out the Book of Revelation in our own lives just as we live out the rest of God’s Word.
The supernatural battle between good and evil happens every day in the decisions we make for or against Christ. With that in mind, Father Veras does not attempt to decipher some earth-shattering meaning for the Beast or the number 666, as many fundamentalists do. Nor does he claim to know when the world will end or who the Antichrist will be. What he offers instead (as the title suggests) is a personal application of the text of Revelation that can be used by every Christian in their daily life.
Certainly parts of Revelation are meant to address a broader worldview. Some of John’s vision encompasses whole peoples and nations and foreshadows things to come on a global scale; some passages apply to Christ and the Church as a whole. Father Veras does sketch out the general idea for these major themes. But throughout the text he consistently makes the case that the Book of Revelation speaks clearly to the average Christian, teaching us how to live the faith in a world that is at odds with Christian values.
On that note, one of the themes that spoke directly to me was that of marriage. Christ is the bridegroom awaiting His bride (the Church), who will be united to Him in the great heavenly wedding feast at the end of time. The image of marriage and the wedding banquet, the bride and the bridegroom, and spousal love stood out to me as a reoccurring symbol in Revelation - not only in the joy of our final union with Jesus, but also the contrasting “harlot” who represents unfaithfulness and a cheap imitation of marital love.
With marriage increasingly threatened in today’s culture and Christian morality in general under attack, the message of Revelation is more urgent than ever. Yet when reading John’s apocalyptic vision, it is easy for us to get distracted by images of seven-headed beasts and sinister horsemen We forget that God’s Word must reach into our souls and change us, not just put on a good show. The symbolic nature of apocalyptic writing often diverts our attention away from the deeper lessons hidden within the symbolism. But these lessons must be learned and applied to our everyday lives.
Father Richard Veras cuts through the difficult imagery and drives home the core message of Revelation. Behind the monsters and beasts, Revelation describes the kind of love that we must show to Christ and assures us of the love that even now He has for us. A chief example of this love can be found in our earthly marital unions which foretell the heavenly union we will one day share with God. In this regard, the Book of Revelation is a reminder for every Christian that we must live a spiritually chaste life in anticipation of our wedding day, as members of Christ’s Bride (the Church).
As it turns out, I did not read Father Veras’ book during Lent as I had initially planned. Much can be found there that would aid our Lenten experience (especially concerning sin and repentance as we evaluate the state of our own souls), but there is also much joy in these pages, the kind of joy and anticipation that is shared by a bride and groom as they approach their wedding day. Fittingly I read this book in the Easter Season, a time of rejoicing as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and await His final return when He will be united with His Bride. Equally significant, I began writing this review on the day of my tenth wedding anniversary, a traditionally symbolic number that coincides nicely with the numerology of John’s Apocalypse as well as its nuptial overtones. This chance convergence of events - of marital and Easter joy - made Father Veras’ insights both more relevant and more personal to me. Perhaps this was mere coincidence and should not be viewed as anything more. But it certainly caused me to appreciate more deeply the Wisdom for Everyday Life from the Book of Revelation.
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